The Problem With Casual Racism In New Zealand

screen-shot7-2010-11-17-atI went home during the last semester break, and as my family were walking in the Farmers Market we stopped by a stand selling beautiful wooden bowls. The man at the stand was friendly and talked to my family, and my Dad who has lived in New Zealand for over 20 years, was asked: “So, where are you all visiting from?”, my Dad replied “Warkworth” which is indeed the truth, as I grew up there. These kinds of questions create ignorance and occur often for many of us who have grown up being asked “Where are you from”, joked about or faced racial stereotypes. Although the title reads in New Zealand, I wanted to also add a little of my experience when I was living in Australia.

There are many stories like these, such as people talking slowly to my parents when I was a young girl, or people treating other people differently because of their race, or being bullied at school for your race. Often these experiences are in silence, and that is why we don’t hear about them often, because they have happened so often, and too many times before. I’ve had school friends tell me in a joking manner “it’s because you’re Asian!” which implies that stereotypes are true, and well, they’re not. Maths and science were my worst subjects, even though people would ask me for help in class. I recently watched a video here, and it’s a strong reminder on the harm of racism.

When I lived in Australia, I felt that for some people, part of the humour there often has casual racism disguised as jokes. In a past post I talked about my experiences of being put in ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) in Primary school, even though I am fluent in English. When I was in high school, I had a teacher who used my “being an Asian”, as an excuse for my grammatical mistakes in English class. Bearing in mind English was one of my favourite classes, it seemed unfair that when my Caucasian friends had grammar mistakes, they were simply written in red pen with the teacher’s corrections.

I’m a first generation Kiwi who was born and raised in New Zealand, but because of my appearances I will always be asked “Where are you from?” and no one has ever guessed my ethnicity as Taiwanese. When I ask “What do you think my ethnicity is?” I often get the following: Japanese, Filipino, Chinese, Malaysian or Thailand. The thing with asking where are you from? is that it gives the feeling that you don’t belong here. It’s more correct to ask “What is your ethnicity?” because that’s often what people want to know. I can’t count a number of times I’ve had someone ask me “Where are you from?” when I’ve just met them, or when I worked at a cafe, and a customer asks me this question and walks off.

As a Kiwi, I feel that a part of our culture is this she’ll be right kind of attitude, which is why racism is not always taken seriously as it should be. Any kind of racism at any level causes separation, builds hatred and causes a divide between people. The problem is that I’ve faced, as many people have, casual racism since I was a young girl. It all started in high school, because of ignorance and stereotypes. The problem with this is that many people who perpetuate it, make it seem that it’s the norm. In terms of Casual racism in Australia, I feel that it does affect job opportunities to some degree for many people, as there is still that level of discrimination in some corporations.

We live in a multicultural society, and in order to have a sense of harmony, we must be accepting of diversity. There needs to be a level of respect, and a treat others how you’d like to be treated way of thinking, for anyone we encounter. It’s not always as simple for these things to change immediately, and it will take time, but I think it’s important that we strive for it and live by fairness. Everyone deserves equal opportunities regardless of their race. Casual racism seems harmless, but if everyone does it, it helps it grow and builds up into a bigger issue. What do you think? What are your thoughts and experiences with casual racism?

Photography by Stephen Shore

The Lost Art Of Staring Into Space

tumblr_nbydv01Db41re3kvuo1_500.jpgAs I walk into a space, there is often people with their heads down on their phone, laptop or mp3 player. It makes me think about how we don’t see daydreamers as often as we used to, and if you catch sight of one, perhaps you might make eye contact for a fleeting second. Our eyes show what we focus on or perhaps we might be gazing into the distance absorbing our surroundings. The lost art of staring into space, also suggests the quiet moments where we pause for a moment. The kind of pause that needs no interruption or interaction with our technological devices.

There’s time to take a deep breath, stare into nature and listen to the birds outside. We are all plugged online at some point of the day (hence I’m writing online this moment). However, these thoughts wonder into my mind about how this has become normalised. As I visit Taiwan each year, it’s normal for the whole row on a train to be on their mobile devices and in Sydney, it’s normal for someone to be walking and nearly walk into you while they text their friend and in New Zealand, it’s normal to see someone with their headphones talking to someone about business. But, somehow, it just doesn’t seem normal.

I say this mostly because I rarely use my phone when I’m out and about, or at least I try not to too much. The truth is we don’t need to use our phone 9/10 times, but it has become a habit or a ritual of some kind, that seems natural and we might not think twice about it. Space makes me think of back on the farm when I was younger, I could crouch down and stare at little ants walking past, watch my pigs eat or lie on the grass staring at the clouds moving across the blue sky and time seemed to pass by.  The art of staring into space is also the art of simply doing nothing.

We are a culture that praises busyness because it ties in with the idea of productivity which also suggests motivation. Busyness is always trending, as a memory seemed to pop in my head of how many times we may have said we’re doing nothing, but people seem to need to feel sympathetic when there’s no need. It’s nice to do nothing. Back in high school, when I was bored I would always daydream, but nowadays when someone is bored they may whip out their phone or listen to music on the streets. Comfort in being alone is important, as it means we are able to disconnect from the world.

I found when we were younger, there was a sense of creativity that we build in our moments of space. If we didn’t know what to do, we’d find something to do or imagine what, where and who we might be. The curiosity of noticing the things around us invites excitement and experiences into our lives. They make us more aware individuals and more engaged in the present. There is so much beauty in quiet moments, that we forget it if we surround ourselves with a noisy environment. Take those moments where you look around, people watch and feel the world around you.

Space gives us the ability to develop creativity, awaken curiosity and allow critical reflection and thoughts to wander. The lost art of staring into space reminds us to see the world offline, without our screens in front of us. It allows us to see the reality around us through the lens of our own eye. It reminds us that we don’t always need to be switched on and that we need time to be in a quiet and peaceful state of mind. A wonderful article here, talks about the ability to switch off and the true joy in leisure.

The last few paragraphs from the article: We’re either working, or preparing and commuting to work, or recharging our batteries for another round of work. Otherwise, we’re just flopping out in front of a screen. And many of the activities that we deem as leisure are in fact just another version of toil, argues Skidelsky. Jogging to lose weight, hosting parties in order to ‘network’, learning yoga to be an instructor, these activities are undertaken instrumentally with a specific goal in mind. Leisure, on the other hand, is done for no other sake than for the sheer joy of immersion. 

image via

May Monthly Wrap Up: Events, Life And Cats

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This month has been wonderful, even when the wind was wild and the nights were chilly. The start of the month was the launch of Chinese Eye Magazine, and it was an amazing event. I went with my lovely friend Sabina. The goodie bag had a rose inside each one that it almost felt like Valentine’s day. There were delicious dumplings cooked by House of Dumplings and stylish decor from Matisse.

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Miss FQ had an event to celebrate the launch of Juicy Couture’s new Viva La Juicy Sucré Fragrance. The scent is quite sweet and reminds me of lollies and cupcakes. The gift bags included one bottle of the new fragrance and an edition of Miss FQ. There was a dessert ATM where cupcakes came out. They were so delicious and sweet – perfect for a sweet tooth!

The Cat Lounge is the first cat cafe in New Zealand and my second cat cafe experience. The black cat had an instant fondness for Mr Penguin, and some were sleeping peacefully while others were wondering around. There’s something mysterious about cats, but they do love to lie in the patches where the sun warms up the ground. There was a beautiful large Maine Coon and a sleek grey and white cat, otherwise they were all little darlings.

May meant turning 21 and reflecting on how much I’ve grown as a person, and how much there’s still to learn. It meant saying goodbye to long distance and embracing the beautiful journey ahead. Uni has been great this year, and the beautiful view from work makes Winter look like Spring. Sometimes the little Sparrows will visit and sit on a branch. Lunch breaks were filled with reading Eye magazine, and early mornings meant listening to music to wake me up.

Cherish each moment, be grateful for everything and enjoy the memories.

What Did We Do When There Was No Internet?

ab04ae9815e6771ae97eed3e8c5e9a44.jpgWhen I think back to my childhood, I’m grateful for a time when technology hadn’t been as nearly prevalent in our lives. We weren’t surrounded by a screen for a significant amount of the day, and we cherished the moments of going to the cinema to watch a film or played outside in the grass. Children didn’t have any phones in their hands, and there were more eye contact and in-person interaction. We’d hop on over to the neighbour’s house, bounce on the trampolines to play and walk to the beach together. If the internet disappeared tomorrow, what would happen?

There were always shelves of books at home, and almost every weekend we would stop at the local library to borrow books. If I wasn’t practising my flute or piano, playing with the animals or walking around the farm, I’d be reading a book, drawing a picture or playing with my toys. The difference now is that children grow up playing games on a screen, interacting with one another through online and are growing up learning through technology. I felt that we still experienced that feeling in a classroom with only a pen and paper, writing our essays by hand.

Til this day, even at university, I prefer writing with a pen to paper. There are certain things that are still preferred without the internet, such as reading a book or a magazine. There’s nothing quite like having the physical element of a book and being able to flip through each page. Before technology became what it is, life seemed far more innocent and thinking back, we spent a lot of time outdoors running around, and more time talking to strangers. The lack of technology meant there was no form of escapism, and so everyone would talk to one another.

When there were moments that you wanted to escape, you’d draw or read a book in class. I’m sure children now have just as many hobbies, however, I can’t help feel that back then the lack of screens meant that we spent more time exploring with our imagination, and trying new things. We’d spend time going to drawing classes, going to ballet classes, learning new instruments, learning new languages and spending our time experimenting what we like and don’t like, and finding our own unique ways to entertain ourselves and use our time.

In many ways, it was far more polite back then, because if you think about it, anyone who uses their phone constantly when they’re with other people, are not really presently there with them. Creativity meant writing little stories, going outside to explore nature and always craving a sense of learning. It meant researching and getting books out to do your projects. I still remember listening to Beethovens Tape to sleep, and the fact that there is barely anyone who still listens to the tape, even though it was only over 10 years ago.

Simplicity and interactivity would be the two things that I think of, that have changed in a drastic way. The way we interact with people has changed immensely, and the simplicity of life has become noisier with the chaotic nature of the online world. In anything, there requires a balance, as too much excess of anything makes it a negative. This means Social Media, the internet and the online digital world can have their positives, but it’s all a matter of balance. We live in a time where things are changing at a rapid rate.

We live in a time where businesses rely heavily on having the internet, students need the internet in order to do research and individuals have the internet to stay connected to news, entertainment and socialising. The moments the internet decides to say goodbye for an hour or two, that’s when I realise that the things I do go back to reading, listening to music, going outside for a walk or writing on paper. They go back to the things that we’d do if there was no internet. Communication was learned through a different way growing up, compared to the way it is now. Even though I was painfully shy, I was forced to interact with people, which is the natural way.

Meeting people (whether friends or dating) were done in person, sending an email meant sitting down to write a letter and going to the post office to send it and calling a friend meant sitting on a chair where the phone had a wire on it. There was a sense of greater patience we had because the internet is so greatly convenient and fast. I still remember rather than spending 2 hours online, we’d spend 2 hours playing with the cat or going out to slide down the hills on cardboard boxes. There was a sense of innocence. There was a sense of still not knowing many things, but now with the internet children can know things from such a young age.

Remembering life before the internet was a part of our lives reminds us of how much has changed. It reminds us to stay true to our own core values in a trending world. It reminds us that no one used to know what someone was eating on a Saturday night, until the week after when they would tell you in person all about the delicious meal they cooked. It meant meeting someone in person, before knowing what they looked like from a photo or their profile. It meant playing games together, rather than sitting in a circle looking down at a screen. I miss those elements of simplicity and not knowing everything, but each period of time is a different stage in history, and this is just one of them.

Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady (1964)

 

Conversations On Being Kind From Your Heart

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There is such simplicity in saying be kind, and at the same time, deep down in my heart, there are days where I feel as if I wasn’t as kind as I could be, or that I could have done something this or that way. Perhaps that’s just the empathetic side of me that feels this way. Last year I wrote a post about speaking from the heart because I find that it doesn’t happen the way it used to. There is an effect that technology has where we have the ability to talk online, which may cause us to be less emotional. When we talk in person, being raw is sometimes perceived as a weakness when it shouldn’t be.

Kindness is not those who do it to gain something, those who do it for attention or those who want to be perceived a certain way. True kindness is one that could be completely invisible to the eye but felt by others. It’s important to note that true kindness is ultimately loving yourself. It’s funny how sometimes we’re much kinder and far less judgmental towards others, but when it comes to ourselves, we can sometimes be harsh critics. It makes me think to when I had depression quite badly, there were thoughts that were so terrible and awful, that I’d never say to anyone else, but I said it to myself.

Being kind from your heart means seeing a person for their character and actions, rather than appearances. It means seeing a person on the street with a sad face, and picturing giving them a big warm hug (does anyone else do this as well!). Taking the time to listen to a friend and be there for them. Sometimes kindness is being very honest, which can make us feel unkind. However, it’s far better to be honest to a close one if you think they’re doing something wrong. It means you care for them and want the best for them. Kindness from your heart could be spending the time to cook a meal for a loved one.

It’s the ability to be tolerant and understanding, without judgment towards someone. It’s the time taken to help someone, not for any rewards, but simply because it gives a sense of connection. Helping and having compassion is something that encourages others and ourselves to do more of.  It’s the ability to truly understand that every person is different and that we can’t change people. Sometimes it means knowing when to say yes and no. This one is important. Honesty has a strong tie with kindness because the truth will always reveal itself.

Actions speak louder than words. Think of Pride & Prejudice, and the way Elizabeth felt Darcy was incredibly arrogant and full of pride when really he was simply shy and reserved with his words. However, his actions showed that he was loving, caring and kind. We are all capable of spreading a light in our lives. You know that feeling of catching a smile from the distance, and feeling positive energy run through your body. No one can be happy all the time, but when we’re kind to other’s, we can spread that light and form a silent connection. Kindness is an invisible way of healing and gives a feeling of warmth and love.

Photography by Milton H. Greene 

Pros And Cons Of Wearing Traditional Braces

e995384748f30cd18edd6d901e073595.jpgA smile is a beautiful thing, no matter what your teeth look like. However, I personally felt conscious of the way my teeth looked, and as someone who loves to smile, it affected me for the longest time from hesitating to laugh with my mouth wide open or talking to others with my teeth showing too much. It’s been 14 months since my braces were put on. Read here for tips on saving money for braces. I’d considered Invisalign a few years ago, however, they are more suitable and effective for mild cases, whereas traditional braces are able to fix even the most tricky situations.

Pros

Straight teeth. This is definitely the best thing about braces because ultimately the end goal is straight teeth.

Confidence booster. It’s a confidence booster because they’re getting straighter each day, and most people don’t even notice or care if you have braces.

Age is no limit.  Most people get braces at a young age, however, orthodontists have many patients that are in their late teens or are adults.

Looking younger. Braces can make you seem more youthful, as they are more commonly worn during high school.

Satisfaction of gaps closing. I had 4 teeth extracted, and there’s something so satisfying about seeing them gradually close up as the months go by.

Least expensive of braces types. Metal braces tend to be more affordable than more subtle braces. Plus you can choose colours.

They move your teeth efficiently. Metal braces are made from stainless steel and rubber bands are used to attach the wire.

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Cons

Staining and limited brushing. Pre-braces my teeth were fairly white, however, I noticed in the past year, especially in photos that they’ve become slightly yellow.

Costly. This is more of a pro in the sense that you’re making an investment. Braces are costly and can cost thousands of dollars.

Cleaning is time-consuming. I find this is a pro because it’s encouraged me to spend more time on oral hygiene, although it can take longer to clean your teeth with braces.

Elastics falling out. There have been moments where I’ve laughed too hard, and the rubber bands I wear, have snapped! Most of the time, it’s during eating that the elastics will fall out.

Pain. This only happens briefly after getting your braces tightened every 4-6 weeks. The pain is tolerable, and simply a tight feeling, as your teeth are shifting and moving into position.

Food stuck. There’s nothing more attractive than getting lettuce stuck in your braces! It seems after eating a salad, you can’t quite get rid of it all unless you brush your teeth.

You Decide Your Attitude Regardless Of The Situation

0-cat-black.jpgThis is one of the most important lessons in life. Your attitude determines your choices and how you feel about a situation, and what you want to learn from it. The mind is everything. What you think, you become. We have a choice in what we want to focus on and how to deal with past hurt or tricky situations.  Everyone goes through bad times, and it’ll vary in different degrees, which is why no one should ever judge or compare others for what they’ve been through. If your mindset is always on past hurt then the storm in the past will always rain on you.

If someone seems like they have everything, none of that ever matters. It’s really the things we feel inside that determine how we live our lives. We all have a choice how to deal with situations and attitudes. If I feel annoyed, angry or upset at a situation, can’t I turn it around? If someone says something unkind to me or if I had to deal with a difficult client, I have the choice to choose how to react. That’s the power of how we think and what we do. It’s a lesson that lasts a lifetime but helps us grow wiser and learn from experience.

It’s normal to get upset from time to time (no one can possibly be happy all the time!), but those are moments we need to accept and grow from. I heard a story about a person who broke up with their girlfriend after she realised they would be in a long distance. After this incidence, he became despaired and lost his job over the year and didn’t know what to do with his life. This is just a simple example in that we have a choice in moving on and becoming a better person, or reliving the past and becoming more bitter about what’s been and gone. 6-cat-orange.jpgA good attitude can be contagious, and make those around us feel better. I read an article here The truth is, while you’re busy worrying about what others think of you, they’re busy worrying about what you think of them. And on the other hand, most people are likely thinking about things like what they’re cooking for dinner! Most people are more aware of what’s going on in their own lives, which is a good reason for not giving a fudge about what other people think. Caring what other’s think prevents us from feeling true happiness and freedom.

There are people who seem like they have everything, but perhaps when a disaster strikes, they instantly feel that it’s the end of the world. Whereas maybe those who have been through tough times or worked hard to be where they are and have struggled through many failures face the same situation, they may have a more calm attitude towards the situation. Of course, it’s a general example, because vice versa could be possible, it depends on the individual as well.

It’s important to also detach yourself from other’s problems in their lives. We must also go through our own failures, and decide how we can turn that experience into a positive because everyone will go through failure. We will all face rejection and disappointment, but it’s how we use those moments to make us more persistence and resilient that can make us stronger. Attitude is everything. No matter what situation you face, it’s ultimately your attitude that determines how you’ll feel. Live each day with gratitude, and know that one of biggest superpowers is your ability to choose!

Photography by Mg Frontera